0' - 3000'
In recent years, the term awesome seems to have entered the vocabulary to describe everything from an ice cream to finding a parking place. But because we are English and very reserved we have resisted such inappropriate extremes of language. When we are impressed with something we have stubbornly persevered with terms like pretty good, quite nice or even rather special, as our idea of a superlative.
As we leave the water, having dived Cane Bay Wall, we look at each other and say simultaneously "that was awesome". It is a dive where we wanted simply to change our tanks and do it again. Immediately. And, you can dive it by just walking straight in off the beach.
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We begin the dive at the dinghy ramp. By starting here you can snorkel out through the shallow gap in the reef. Starting at the ramp makes it easier to find the buoy marking the beginning of the dive. Keeping the sides of the ramp in line, we swim out in a straight line until we reach the small training buoy. The distance to the buoy is about 50 yards. We drop down to 20 feet and swim north toward the wall.
A steep sand chute in front of us has a careless pile of three old anchors. We examine them only briefly as we are excited by the prospect of descending down the chute. It is steep-sided with plate corals on one side and large patches of elephant ear sponge on the other. It is the view ahead that draws us on. The chute descends sharply through the doorway-shaped gap ahead. We see only an all-consuming expanse of deep blue. The slight current draws us down, the dark blue doorway looming closer like a scene from a Steven King film.
We shoot down the funnel, gaining speed and depth, until we are spat out through the doorway into the ocean at 100 feet. We turn around to face a vertical wall of exceptional beauty. The regal sweep of this stunning wall stretches in both directions. We choose west.
The top of the wall has a spur and groove formation caused by thousands of years of surge, so above 100 feet every 30 yards or so we find another doorway marking the end of a sand chute. Below 100 feet the wall forms a continuous line.
The areas between the chutes are overgrown with huge plate corals that look like petrified waterfalls, tumbling down the dizzying precipice of the wall to the depths below. At the exits of sand chutes swirls of plate coral form eddies off the main cascade. We hang in the expansive blue, the silence broken by the tinny pop of our exhalations, and admire this dramatic seascape.
The site would have quite enough to offer if there was no other life, but the wall is teaming with a variety of other creatures. As we move west we see the extended body of a tiger tail sea cucumber, a pair of French angelfish gamely swimming along the wall with nothing below them for 3,000 feet, and wire corals growing defiantly straight out from the wall face.
When our computers demand, we take the next sand chute doorway up through the wall to the top of the reef. This chute is narrow, perhaps 4 feet across, and the coral has formed a bridge across the top in places. The chute winds up through the reef like a back street through a crowded medieval town. Holes in the reef on both sides of the path lead to secret staircases and habitations. These dark passages are gaily painted with yellow star encrusting sponges, brightening the way for those who live within. The round beseeching eyes of a porcupine fish stare out at us. It is a squeeze to emerge through the passageway (swim over the top of the wall if confined spaces bother you) out into brilliant sunshine on top of the wall.
The second half of the dive, swimming back east, takes us over a beautiful coral garden. This area is worth a dive in its own right and is used by local dive operators for training and night dives.
We swim at an angle to the beach until we find ourselves in shallow water again and find the gap in the reef that leads us back to the boat ramp. Trudging up the beach gasping superlatives to each other we are brought back to the real world as we look both ways before crossing the road. They are obviously used to divers emerging from this site in a state of awesome wonder, as a road sign declares "Give way to divers".